Thursday, July 30, 2009

Here We Go A-G.A.I.N.

So yesterday I went to the big top secret G.A.I.N. (Greet, Assess, Inform, Next Steps) training. I say top secret because every time I asked someone higher up about the training, they would only tell me "I can't tell you anything about it" (as if it was KFC's secret recipe or something).

Well, I'M gonna tell you about it.

Our trainers were nice, if a bit too over-energetic. Basically, the training enforces behaviors many of us are currently engaged in, like shaking hands, greeting the client with our name and getting theirs, assessing client needs and explaining products. But it shifts the focus onto the client and their needs, and will not be so product driven. We're being transitioned into almost sort of a financial counsellor role, rather than pushing the "hot product," which is a change I am excited about. I hate having a client come to me about savings and ending up trying to sell them Incentive Checking account because if I don't I might not make my incentives (more on that another day). Now, we're going to be encouraged to analyze our client's needs and recommend the right product, which technically, we have always done, but the focus is more on the client rather than the product.

There are some parts of the new methodology I am not thrilled about. We're being "strongly encouraged" (I won't say "forced") to continue to engage in lengthy small talk before recommending products to probe for information, walk the client to the door, and then continue our computer wrap up before helping the next client. I think a few of our more impatient clients will take issue with some of that, but part of the training is also for us to "retrain" our customers to expect that kind of personalized care every time. I understand all of this.

Seems like Fiscal United Bank is trying to make everything very formulaic in an effort to make things more personal. Hey, whatever's clever. I think that all the INTENTIONS behind the new processes are solid. Just seems like Fiscal United is taking out any wiggle room for personal style that we may have to our job.

Most of my clients love me. I have build great client relationships doing what I do, and it never involved forcing "small talk with a purpose," ignoring my computer for the first 70% of the customer interaction, or taking my time walking people to the door rather than helping the next client. I'll do what's necessary to toe the line, but I can't see how this forced approach is going to help my clients more than me being genuine with them.

But back to the training. It seemed to me like the biggest gaff came when they asked us what we were happy about and what we were concerned about with the new methodology. Most (if not all) of the people in our group expressed concerns about walking clients to the door, especially while other clients were waiting in the lobby. I was one of the more vocal detractors of this practice for a variety of reasons. It seemed to me that the trainers were trying to assuage my hesitancies (and those of my fellow classmates) in one sentence explanations, and then asking if I was OK after each sentence. After a few minutes of that not working, one of the senior trainers rather brusquely stated that we were spending an inordinate amount of time on the subject and wanted to know what the real issue was. I explained that I was willing to drop it and move on for the sake of expediency, but that I remained unconvinced of the necessity of such a step.

Don't get me wrong, if it wasn't for my back being a trainwreck, I'd be walking them out to the parking lot if it was what's required. As it is, I have a medical exception excusing me from any standing, so I'll need to work that much harder to make them feel at home without walking them to the door, but I am up to that challenge (I feel pretty successful at that as it is). But that doesn't mean I don't find the practice questionable. They asked if we had concerns, not if we were going to committ mutiny. I felt like I was being asked for my opinion, being told I was wrong, and then asked for my opinion again, and being made to feel like I was a bother when I gave the same opinion. I'm sure that's not what her intention was, but I felt like she was invalidating my opinion.

I think the training will lead us towards being a better bank as a whole, but so long as Fiscal United Bank is locking us rigidly into a scripted approach with no room for improvisation or personalization, it'll be a rough, jerky, awkward ride.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At Work At The Bank At Work... At The Bank... At Work?

So today, my wonderful counterpart Sherry and I headed to one of our business client's places of business to try and drum up some business. We basically went to allow people to open an account without ever stepping into the branch. I was a little nervous, frankly.

Despite the fact that I was a public address announcer for the athletic teams at my beloved Alma Mater, Southampton College (formerly run by the soulless nest of succubi known as Long Island University, now run by the Sainted Angels of Stony Brook University), I have a bit of a problem with public speaking. There's a difference between yelling incoherent sports blurbs into a microphone in a cacophonous gymnasium (Three! Guy Incognito!!!) and addressing people in a personal setting. Even people who come into the bank, whom I know are seeking my help, give me a little bit of a quease.

When it's people who I am approaching unsolicited, I get very, very nervous. I am especially nervous over the phone. FACT: I have a small sticker on my monitor that reads: "Thank you for calling Fiscal United Bank, this is your Relationship Banker speaking, how can I help you" because sometimes, I get a bit flustered, and reading it helps the delivery a bit.

I have a bit of a nervous stutter. Don't get me wrong, I don't sound like the guy from Ally McBeal or the co-counsel from My Cousin Vinny (interesting how both my stutter examples are from legal shows/movies... hmmmm... ) but I trip over my tongue. A LOT. My manager won't send me on call nights, because the one time I was scheduled, I didn't sleep the night before, knowing I would have to call people and interrupt their dinners. I despise telemarketing, and that's exactly what I was being asked to do. When she saw me walk in that day, she sent a teller instead.

So I am having mixed emotions about this "Bank at Work" thing. I fully understand the whole concept, and the benefit of performing such a service. Doesn't mean that my stomach isn't doing backflips over it.

The punchline here is that we got there and no one came to us. We stood there for about 5 minutes, and the owner of the business said "sorry, we didn't have any takers."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It Figures...

I posted this on my work blog, The Average Joe of the Banking World:

The Bank is buying us lunch today... on the day that I am traveling to ANOTHER branch to help out. Nice kick in the pants.

The perfect end to a perfect week: Monday, I broke up with my girlfriend. Tuesday, hurt my back lifting water bottle. Wednesday, woke up with a migraine. Thursday, had every idiot in Blue Point at my desk, and still had the migraine. Today, back still hurting, migraine still raging, having not slept much over the past week, I am now going to another branch to help because they are understaffed, a situation I can relate to because we are PERPETUALLY understaffed, and I miss out on free lunch. At least the weekend...

Oh, that's right. I'm working tomorrow. JOY. :(

Does anyone know what the American-On-A-Budget version of walkabout is?

And my audience replied with...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Excitement Is Brewing

Our remodeling is only weeks away, I'm told. Very exciting stuff. We'll be getting a vestibule, doors will be moving, windows painted, carpeting redone, new counters for the tellers... Can't wait!

I'd LOVE to be part of the department that travels from branch to branch redesigning. But I think my themes and motifs wouldn't be well accepted. Abstract design doesn't seem to be something Fiscal United would be comfortable with. But can't you just see how awesome the branch would be with nine legged chairs and a melting clock that ran backwards?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Don't Know What You've Got Until You're Mugged In The Parking Lot For It...

So we had a client (no names, of course) who has mid six figures in his savings account. He just asked the teller who was helping him to write down his balance so he could decide if he should go to McDonalds or Wendy's for dinner. On his way out, he then complained to the Assistant Manager that he couldn't afford more than Wendy's with the amount of interest our bank was paying him.

Oh, to have such problems.

He should understand that we have employees here who can't really afford to even go to Wendy's for dinner. There are some families that can't even afford to eat dinner at all. I wish I didn't value my job as much as I do, I would have told this arrogant jerk that he could feed a family of four at Wendy's for two solid years with HALF of what he had squirreled away in his account. Everyone thinks that working in a bank automatically means your finances are well in the green.

RARELY the case when it comes to the Average Joes of ther banking world. The good news is that Fiscal United Bank has decided to raise all employees to the minimum of the average of surveyed bank employees in our region. The bad news is that no one will commit to a solid date as to when that will happen beyond telling us that it will be within two years, by which time the average salary for a bank employee will likely rise just as much as they are raising us, leaving us still short of what everyone else is making.

Is it Friday yet?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

OK, Enough Is Enough...

In their infinite wisdom, Fiscal United Bank has announced that now, one of our platform personnel will be required to stand by the door to greet people as they come into the branch. Meet and Greet, they call it.

Waste of Resources, I call it.

It's hard enough doing what we do, dealing with these customers who seem to appear in droves all at once. There are times when our lobby is dead empty for an hour or so. Then (more often) there are times when everyone is busy, and there are people waiting to be helped. Despite what the numbers say, this branch, like many others, is under-manned. NOW, we get to lose productivity by having one of us standing by the door doing nothing but directing traffic.

So I will now hold an imaginary press conference in which I will address the decision makers behind this move and explain why they are making a poor decision.


"But it helps customers," Empty Suit #1 will explain.

"So does allowing Overdraft Protection to kick in when a client is drawing against uncollected funds, rather than generating a $35 fee," I answer, pointing to the next "informed decision maker."

"It makes clients feel welcomed," Empty Suit #2 pipes up.

"I make the clients feel welcomed already by greeting them from my desk," I answer. "Not once have I ever had a client say they didn't feel welcomed after I ask them how they're doing, even though I wasn't clogging the lobby when I did it. Next statement."

"Studies show that banks with greeters don't get robbed as much," Empty Suit #3 exposits.

"Who told you that? You didn't even read that study yourself, let alone help come to that conclusion. Stop spouting things you have no understanding of, and that will affect other peoples jobs while you glide on unaffected. You know what else helps prevent robberies? Armed guards. Bandit Barriers at the teller windows. A larger staff. Seeing as how that's not the cheapest solution, I know it's not popular. Instead, you'll be paying someone to stand in the lobby when they can be doing actual work. If no one has anything intelligent to say, this press conference is over."


It's not like this will affect me anyway; I have chronic back problems that prevent me for standing for longer than more than 15 minutes at a time anyway. I'll need to burn a day going back to the doctor to get my note excusing me from this fool's errand, but it will be worth it.

Fiscal United Bank, STOP cherry picking doing what other banks are doing and explaining that we're trying to be like them. Do what matters. Make REAL attempts at safety and customer service, not just what's the easiest thing to replicate.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

If You Can't Amaze The With Answers...

...baffle them with Bullshit.

That's one of my favorite sayings. I like to tell stories, and I will prank people all the time with false knowledge (followed up quickly with a laugh and the REAL information).

One of my favorite misdirections is when a co-worker requests a phone number, I will make sure they are ready to write it down, and give them 867-5309, which, for those living in a cave or born in the 90s or later, is the title of a Tommy Tutone one-hit wonder 867-5309 (Jenny). I even clue them in by drawing out the nine as Ni-ee-ine. Some get it right away, some actually pick up the phone, btu I always clue them in right away.

Today, one of the tellers asked an interesting question: "what does IOU stand for?"

I have gone my entire adult life without wondering if it really does just stand for I Owe You, or if it was an actual acronym. But after revealing that indeed, I had no idea if it meant anything or not, I went ahead and made up the following explanation:

Back in the Civil War, the Union Army was facing a shortage of supplies. They would go to local farms and requisition feed, food, tools, and weapons for use by the army. Rather than just having soldiers walking in an taking the items without explanation, the Union drafted up notices called "Instrument Of Union" notices, explaining that the requisitioned items were necessary for the operation of the Union Army. When the war was over, the Union went about compensating the farmers, giving them money for the Instrument Of Union letters. Thus, the practice of giving someone an IOU as a promise of later compensation began.

The teller said that had I not already admitted I knew nothing about its origins, she would have bought that story hook, line and sinker. Too bad no one ever asks what an IOU stands for!

(P.S.: It stands for I Owe Unto. I like my story better!)